What To Do When You Keep Tripping Circuits

20 August 2020
 Categories: , Blog

When you plug something in to an outlet and turn the appliance on, you expect it to work. You don't expect the power to suddenly go out, so if that happens, you need to take a look at the circuit breaker box. It's not unusual to, at least once in your life, overload a circuit and have to go flip the breaker switch to get the power working again. But if you keep tripping a circuit breaker, you need to do some investigation. It could be a simple matter or one that requires a visit from an electrician for repair.

Map the Circuits and Breaker Switches

First, if you haven't already done so, map your home's circuits. Plug table lamps and other small things like portable TVs into outlets and turn breaker switches on and off. Your circuit breaker box should have things labeled, so you know which switch covers the kitchen and which switch covers the bathroom. However, the border between circuits actually isn't that clear-cut. Many homes have outlets that are right between the kitchen and living room, for example, so it's kind of hard to tell which circuit the outlets are on. Mapping takes some time, but it's simple and straightforward.

Have Everyone Write Down What They're Plugging in and Where

Everyone in the household needs to write down what they're plugging in, where they're plugging it in, and what other power-drawing items (e.g., lights) might be in the same area. Note the amps or watts required by each item; these numbers will be on a plate that's usually on the underside or back of an item. Light bulbs count, too.

What you want from this is a good idea of how many items are drawing power from each circuit. You'll compare the number of amps available on the circuit — this will be printed on the circuit breaker switch — with the total number of amps or watts being plugged in. If you find that the tripping circuit has a total load that far exceeds its available power, there's your problem. Reduce what gets plugged into outlets on that circuit and see if that solves the tripping.

Test Each Outlet

If you didn't see an obvious overload, test the outlets on the circuit that goes with the switch that keeps tripping. You can get a tester at hardware stores; they're cheap handheld items that you plug into outlets, and you'll look for specific patterns of lights on the tester. That can reveal bad outlets that need repair.

Call an Electrical Repair Service

If you find a bad outlet or all the outlets seem fine, call an electrician. Don't assume the tripping is just a fluke; something is going wrong and causing the switch to flip. If you can't find the cause, consider reaching out to a local electrical repair service.